By Jeri Mattics Omernik
Picture this: Class has started, you’ve finished the housekeeping details and launched into the day’s lesson. You’ve told the students that today they’ll be working in the greenhouse transplanting their horticulture projects.
You finish your instructions, then move to the greenhouse to continue the lesson, where you spend the next five minutes repeating the same instructions you just gave back in the classroom. Sound familiar? Why won’t they listen? Is it something you’re doing wrong, or is it just “kids these days?”
Kendra Linnebur is in her sixth year of teaching agriculture at Fredonia High School in Fredonia, Kan., and says that when she first started teaching, she struggled with classroom management. One of her frustrations was that it seemed the students didn’t listen to her instructions.
To improve her teaching skills, Linnebur applied for and was accepted to attend FFA’s Delta Conference. During this conference, Linnebur gained insight into delivering instructions more effectively.
According to Linnebur, here are the primary elements teachers need to include when delivering effective instructions:
• Mind before body: Tell students what their mind is going to do before you tell them what their body is going to do; e.g., say, “We’re going to learn about transplanting in the greenhouse,” instead of saying, “We’re going to the greenhouse to learn about transplanting.”
• Keep it short and sweet: Too many words can confuse students; use as few words as possible to get your point across.
• Include a cue – or action – word, like “create.”
• Establish a time limit: Give students a shorter time than you think the activity should take; you can always extend the time available if students are working diligently.
“I must admit that when I first learned about this technique, I was skeptical,” Linnebur says. “However, I decided to try it in my classroom, and when I started using this technique, I discovered that it really worked – that my students listened more and understand my instructions better. For me, the bottom line is that implementing this technique engages my students by acknowledging how their brains work and how they learn.”
Linnebur continues, “It takes practice to deliver effective instructions consistently. The teacher has to make a conscious, intentional effort. If you do that, I think you’ll experience the same result I have.”
A simple change in the way we deliver instructions can increase student comprehension and, in turn, save us time and greatly reduce the stress of teaching.